The Abercrombie/Erskine/Mintzer/Patitucci Band: Live in New York City

John Kelman By

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While Hudson Music is primarily known for their instructional videos and, more recently, DVDs, the fact is that many of their titles, while academically interesting for the student, are worthwhile to the non-musician for their exceptional concert footage. They have been reissuing some of their more popular video titles on DVD, and it's as good a time as any to take stock of what they have to offer. Case in point is the 1998 concert/clinic held by 'supergroup' guitarist John Abercrombie, drummer Peter Erskine, saxophonist Bob Mintzer and bassist John Patitucci. Live in New York City combines an exciting concert performance with insights into the music by each member of the band, as well as a short Q&A session from the audience. With the DVD release, it is now possible to watch just the concert by skipping the discussions, or watch it in its entirety.

Each member contributes two compositions. Whether it is the dark funk of Patitucci's 'Labor Day,' the 'I Got Rhythm' changes of Mintzer's 'Runferyerlife,' the plaintive swing of Abercrombie's 'Little Swing,' or the New Orleans second line funk of Erksine's 'Cats and Kittens,' the quartet demonstrates their musical breadth and why they are such in-demand players. Recorded at the end of a short five-day tour sponsored by D'Addario, they sound like they've been playing together for years. And, true enough, there is some shared history ' Erskine was a member of Abercrombie's trio for many years, and also played with Mintzer in Yellowjackets ' but it is a testament to the sheer musicianship of the players that they can come together and, with intuition at the forefront, create music that breathes, swings and is elevated beyond the written page by their ability to interact in a completely organic way.

The discussion segments will be of interest to players and non-musicians alike. Arguably the best segment is Peter Erskine's, where he demonstrates, in terms that anyone can hear, how a simple rhythm can be made to swing. By playing a fundamental 4/4 beat and explaining how he sings the rhythmic subdivisions to himself, he shows how a drummer can take a basic pattern and breathe life into it. In the space of four or five minutes he makes a profound statement on the essence of musicality that is enlightening in its simplicity and elegance.

The camerawork is outstanding, focusing on the individual players enough to satisfy those interested in seeing how they do what they do, while not neglecting to provide the feeling that this is, indeed, a band. The interplay between the players is clear, especially between Erskine and Patitucci. Live in New York City demonstrates that musicianship is about more than just chops. It is about, as Abercrombie says, being part of a group; it is about, as Patitucci says, more than just being proficient on your instrument; and it is, as Mintzer says, about being as diverse as possible, and keeping an open mind to broaden one's musical horizons.

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